Posts Tagged ‘Tim Tebow’

Oh No, Lolo: U.S. Track Star Lolo Jones Caught Between Marketing and Medaling

If Lolo Jones had been just one-tenth of a second faster Tuesday, she would have been able to outrun her critics.

The 30-year-old Jones, a striking track & field beauty who once posed nude for ESPN The Magazine (don’t worry, link is safe for work), has been the most recognizable U.S. Olympic track athlete of these games. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Jones was favored to win the 100-meter hurdles and looked primed to capture gold until she clipped the ninth hurdle with her foot, dropping her to seventh place. The devastating defeat had been brewing for four years until Tuesday, when Jones had a shot at redemption in the 100-meter hurdles in London.

Lolo Jones never hid from the spotlight, but Olympic defeat has only intensified the bright lights on her.

Alas, heartbreak again for Jones, who finished in fourth place with a time of 12.58 seconds, only one-tenth behind the bronze medalist Kellie Wells and two-tenths of a second behind silver medalist Dawn Harper, both American teammates.

Falling short once again seemed to agonize Jones, who told the L.A. Times, “I guess all the people who were talking about me, they can have their night and laugh about me.” Later on Twitter, Jones didn’t hide her pain or her problems.

On Wednesday morning, Jones appeared on NBC’s Today Show to discuss her narrow defeat, as well as to address criticism she received from the media. The frustration of being ridiculed led Jones to tears in the interview.

“I laid it out there,” Jones said while choking up. “I fought hard for my country, and I think it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

The backlash came courtesy of the New York Times, in which writer Jere Longman dished a scathing commentary on Jones, seeming to implicate she was more interested in marketing herself than winning a medal. The article, published three days before the Olympic finals, compared Jones to Anna Kournikova, a former tennis player who got more attention for her looks than her play on the court.

To be fair, Jones has not exactly shied away from the media attention. In addition to the ESPN The Magazine shoot, Jones appeared on the cover of Outside Magazine wearing only a ribbon bikini and has not been afraid of flashing some skin on the red carpet.

Though her attractive looks brought her attention, Jones shocked all in May when she said she was a virgin, and called maintaining her celibacy harder than training for the Olympics.

Jones even name dropped Tim Tebow as a potential future partner, a move that doesn’t exactly promise a quiet reaction.

Her looks, her virginity and her quest for Olympic redemption made her the big name in women’s track this Olympics, which apparently didn’t sit well with teammates Harper and Wells. The medalists appeared on NBC Sports Wednesday morning and did not hesitate to call out Jones.

“I think that, on the podium tonight, the three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed,” Wells said. “And that’s all that really needs to be said.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the fourth place finisher, their teammate Jones.

The sad Jones saga demonstrates the unfortunate problem with Olympic athletes on the cusp of greatness: They must balance their quest for glory with their quest for fame. The Olympics comes around only every four years, so athletes would be wise to cash in on their popularity while they can. Jones received media attention for her looks and her back story, and didn’t hide from the spotlight. For this, she earned added publicity and nabbed sponsorship deals with McDonald’s, Oakley and Red Bull. In short, she marketed herself to make money.

But as a result of her marketing, Jones was seen as being less dedicated than the other athletes competing. She maintains she trained six days a week for four years in the hopes of standing on the winner’s podium. Whether this is true or not, her failure will undoubtedly make onlookers wonder what she could have accomplished had she stayed out of the limelight.

The only way Jones could have come out ahead in all of this would have been to win the hurdles, which is easier said than done. The fact is only one person in the world every four years can say they’ve done that, and only two others get medals for second and third place. With this in mind, it’s hard to fault an athlete looking to cash in on his or her fame, knowing that winning is a long shot anyways. If the window of opportunity was there to make money, most people would seize it like Jones did.

Today, Jones is again the center of focus for the media and the public. Right now, though, she isn’t inviting the attention.

Photo (cc) by Ragnar Singsaas and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.


Tebow Time? Not for Reebok: Licensing and Lawsuits Between Sporting Companies

Tim Tebow has already made it well-known he is “excited” to be a member of the New York Jets after being traded from the Denver Broncos on March 21. The excitement for the quarterback’s arrival in the Big Apple led to a court battle between athletic companies Reebok and Nike.

Tim Tebow's trade to the Jets incited a lawsuit between Nike and Reebok.

Reebok has been the exclusive maker of licensed on-field apparel for the NFL since 2002 after agreeing to a 10-year, $250 million pact. Company rival Nike struck a five-year deal in October 2010 to replace Reebok when the contract expired. Nike was set to take over as the NFL’s exclusive partner on April 1.

Like he has done to opponents on the field, Tebow took the companies by storm when he was shipped to New York with 10 days remaining on Reebok’s apparel contract. In an effort to capitalize quickly on the Tebow trade, Reebok mass-produced Jets Tebow apparel to be sold in stores. In the first weekend after the trade, sporting goods retailer Modell’s reported selling more than 4,000 Tebow items.

The sales bonanza led to a legal battle between the companies. Nike requested and was granted a restraining order against Reebok on March 28 to cease sales of Tebow apparel. In the suit, Nike claimed that Reebok misappropriated publicity rights and interfered with business relationships. Reebok claimed it had an agreement with the NFL to continue selling items of up to five players who changed teams until its contract expired.

On Wednesday, that temporary order morphed into a preliminary injunction against Reebok, ordering that all Tebow-related apparel manufactured after March 1 was to be recalled. From now on, all Tebow products will be made by Nike, which unveiled its new uniforms for all 32 NFL teams on Tuesday.

Legal questions aside, the interesting aspect to the Tebow saga shows how significant an impact a player can have on sales. Nike knew it would eventually be able to start selling Tebow apparel once its new contract with the NFL kicked into gear. However, the instant demand for Tebow items was so high that it feared Reebok would garner all the possible profits from his move to N.Y. This is perhaps another reason why teams are willing to pay big money for a single player.

Photo (cc) by Jeffrey Beall and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Lin a New York Minute: Jeremy Lin’s Impact on the Knicks, NBA and the World

The incredible rise of Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American NBA player for the Knicks who has caught the NBA by storm, is one of the more remarkable sports stories of the last 10 years. A Harvard graduate who went undrafted and largely unnoticed in his first year has suddenly been unstoppable, scoring 20 points or more in his last six games. People are already comparing Lin to Tim Tebow, another athlete with an unorthodox story who rose to instant fame and success.

A rare moment in which the camera isn't on Jeremy Lin.

The undeniable truth regarding Lin’s popularity is his race. Perceptions and stereotypes indicate Asian-Americans do not typically play basketball. Yet much of the world’s population is made up of people with Asian descendants or who would identify themselves as having Asian origins. For these people, seeing someone they can identify with have success is exciting and captivates their attention.

In the business world attention inevitably leads to money, and the Knicks and the NBA have certainly cashed in recently. Sports Biz reporter Darren Rovell has followed this story for the past two weeks and tweeted some interesting facts. Web traffic to the Knicks’ website has gone up 550 percent in the past week, while video highlight views are up 1,205 percent. Lin Fathead posters are now selling more than those of NFL stars Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning and Tebow. After Lin hit the game-winning shot against the Raptors on Tuesday, merchandise sales skyrocketed overnight by as much as 500 percent. Unsurprisingly, much of the demand for Lin has come overseas.

For a league that is still overcoming the negative effects of a lockout, the emergence of Lin has been a blessing. Where the league goes from here is significant. The NBA has an opportunity to cash in a big way with Lin fans, but as the Washington Post points out, the league has to walk a thin line. The NBA has been notorious for battling with racial stereotypes throughout its history. With Lin, the league has to market the player without relying solely on his race as a point of interest. It’s the modern version of “Fernandomania.”

What happens from here will be the most intriguing. How does the NBA quell the elephant in the room with the race issue? What happens to the international growth of the sport? And how long will Lin remain popular if his play begins to diminish?

Photo (cc) by nikk_la and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

The Payroll: Good Sources of Information on Money and Sports

As every good journalist knows you can’t make it in the business without good sources. To help me in my quest for anything and everything related to the business of sports, here are some websites I will be following, and you should too:

Darren Rovell speaking to some Rays fans. Safe to say Darren has a larger audience on his blog.

The gold standard is Darren Rovell’s Sports Biz blog on CNBC. What makes Sports Biz the best is that it’s the perfect blend of sports and money. Rovell is a sports enthusiast at his core and does a lot of cool field work, including running the NYC Marathon, challenging Dwyane Wade to some hoops, and co-piloting with NASCAR racers among other adventures. Match that with CNBC’s financial acumen and Rovell becomes the go-to person in terms of trends, endorsement deals, contract signings and a host of other topics. For those of you who love the Twitter machine, you can follow him here.

Advertisers always want to know who is watching what, and Sports Media Watch does a great job breaking this down. SMW studies which games or shows received the highest TV ratings and gives its take on these trends. For instance, the watchmen found the Patriots-Broncos playoff game scored surprisingly lower than CBS execs predicted. How could Tom Brady and Tim Tebow not equal ratings galore? SMW points out that Saturday night is when people like to go out, so putting the game on Sunday likely would have drawn more viewers. Check out the Twitter page for more goodies as well.

Sports by Brooks gives some interesting insight into sports business, focusing mostly on scandals in the games we love. Not surprisingly, the Penn State fiasco has taken over the site in the last month. Follow the Twitter birdie here.

Since the advent of ESPN (I’ll get to them in a bit) the personalities who cover sports have become nearly as famous as the athletes themselves. Awful Announcing is a site that puts these personalities under the microscope and looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry. Twitter handle here.

Similar to Awful Announcing, Boston Sports Media Watch is one of my favorites on a local level. The site looks at how the local teams (Pats, B’s, C’s, Sox) are covered, who is covering them, and includes links to local newspaper, radio and TV websites. Consider it sports business on a micro level. Author Bruce Allen is on Twitter here.

One blog I find strikingly similar to what I plan to look at is the blog Money Players by Marc Isenberg. The blog’s tagline: “The Money. The Players. The business of professional sports, from high school to college to the pros.” I stumbled upon this site only recently, but it looks like it should provide some topics to brainstorm on.

Finally in terms of straight sports coverage I’ll check out ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS Sports, and NBC Sports among others. The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network has taken some flak recently for going too heavy on the entertainment on going too lightly on the sports. This is certainly true, but it still remains the “Worldwide Leader” for a reason.

Photo (cc) by Fifth World Art and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.